A couple of days ago, I read an article in the Sunday Times Magazine about depression (Entitled 'The Sad Lads'). It focused on 3 young men, all in their twenties who, inexplicably, started experiencing this condition.
Their symptoms were debilitating. They lost relationships, couldn't leave the house, experienced suicidal thoughts and one, bizarrely (although I felt sorry for him), wanted to sleep in bed with his mother.
I'm fascinated by the subject of depression. I'm sure, at one stage in my life, if I'd gone to a doctor and explained my symptoms, they might have diagnosed me with this condition but I never did. Instead, I read a lot and thanks to the combination of some brilliant self-help books, a lot of self-experimentation and time, I managed to change my default mood from numb, to stimulated most of the time and joyous/ecstatic on occasions.
This lead me to believe that depression is a 'disease of civilization' rather than being caused by a chemical imbalance. In all but the most extreme of cases, I believe anti-depressants SHOULD NOT be used. Instead, the sufferer needs to find ways to feel alive again.
This often brings them into conflict with The System. The reason I refer to depression as a 'disease of civilization' (I didn't coin this phrase, it's copied from Dr. Stephen Ilardi's brilliant Ted talk which I urge you to watch) is that modern life is SOOO dull, and places so many demands on our time, that it's difficult not to be depressed. The solution, therefore, is to challenge this system. Live life the way you want to live it, no matter how outrageous this may appear to others or how many of societies norms get challenged in the process.
Talk About It!
The article in the Sunday Times presented a slightly different case. The three young men who were affected all had one thing in common - they were 'lads'. For those of you who don't live in the UK, this means that they portrayed an image of being tough, loud, ready for anything, heavy drinkers, always bantering with each other and certainly never never discussing their feelings.
And this was the problem. One was a rugby player, one was a fireman and one was a comedian. The person they had to show the world, the man they felt they had to be to successfully navigate their strong male environment, never expressed the deeper side to their nature. Eventually, this shut them down.
Reading this article was very interesting for me. It added another strand to my understanding of depression and made perfect sense. As men, we can't live up to the stifling archetypes that society gives us. We're so much more complex than that. We need to express ourselves in a variety of different ways and if we don't, there might be consequences.
It was also interesting to note that these three young men experienced great relief simply by talking to other people about what they were going through. At first, they felt this was the worst thing they could do. They couldn't break their 'lad' persona and admit that something was wrong or that they had deeper feelings. However, when they did, they discovered that vocalising their experience reduced the magnitude of the problem.
There's a lesson to be learned here. If you think you're experiencing depression, or any other problem, then tell someone. It's extremely unlikely they'll reject, or ridicule, you and you'll feel so much better for doing so.
The other person may not be able to provide answers. That's fine. The simple act of vocalising your experience a) makes you feel less alone and b) makes the problem seem less daunting.
Finally, you might set off a chain reaction and liberate someone else. How inspiring would that be? Your story could be the thing that let's someone know that they're not alone or crazy. Who knows, it may even start a movement!